Alle Kynnes Thynges: The Ecology of Piers Plowman
PPl contains many vivid descriptions of the natural world, from the opening scene in which Will wanders the Malvern Hills to his experiences on the Mountain of Middle Earth. At the same time, throughout the poem, the presence of the divine is undeniable; it is a presence that scholars often find difficult to reconcile with the presence of nature. PPl invites us to consider nature as saturated with the divine and, therefore, illuminates a tradition of writing about nature and the divine that situates nature as a driving force, controlling and directing humankind. In this essay, Barker expands the concept of ecology to consider how L’s notion of kynde advances our understanding of how nature and the divine together might provide moral instruction and spiritual redemption to humankind. To illustrate this relationship, this essay examines three central moments in the poem: the personified figure of God as Kynde, depictions of humans and nature in passūs 11, 12, and 14 of the B text, and depictions of plague and disease in passus 20. Ultimately, Barker argues for an ecological reading of L’s concept of nature that brings together nature and the divine, reflects environmental thought in the late fourteenth century, and also challenges us to expand our own conceptualization of ecology.